Responsible Business, Civil Society, and Government in an Open Society
The author analyses competition as one of four coordinating mechanisms helping agents mutually to orientate their actions, avoid chaos, and produce social order. Competition is a key dimension of developed societies. It helps to structure and is also conducive to social change. Competing agents constrain one another, making it hard for anyone to change their position. They discover new routines the best of which may later be institutionalized. Competition is a solvent of power but only in relatively equal societies. Entrenched wealth or status restricts competition, thus impoverishing social order. The author also evaluates the theory of competition to explore such topics as corporate social responsibility, relations between government, business and civil society, and reflexivity in social sciences.
Chapter 4: Implications
In this chapter I collect some general insights deriving from the theoretical reflection on competition. A broader set of implications will be presented in the concluding chapter after the examination of practical illustration of the theory with the phenomenon of corporate social responsibility.
Perhaps the most important implication of the theory is the importance of reflexivity in social science. As Michel Foucault (1970: 327) observed, whatever knowledge touches, it immediately causes to move. In social science, reflexivity works through all three second-order mechanisms. That social science helps deliberation and guides hierarchically driven policy is not controversial. I am interested in how it manifests itself in actions of competing agents. Two forms of reflexivity are widely recognised. One is the self-fulfilling prophesy. For example, a convincing story about an imminent political or economic crisis may bring such crisis about. Second is the exact opposite. The same prediction might trigger changes in private strategies or government policy that avert the crisis. But these are just two among the infinite number of possibilities of how a theory might affect agents’ strategies. The two above possibilities derive from the theory’s prediction in a zero-one manner — it is either reinforced or denied. But agents may use the theory in unpredictable ways; they may use it to craft novel strategies that have nothing to do with the theory’s aims or predictions.
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